Murano: Island of Glassmaking

Like the famous Italian city of Venice, Murano is a series of tiny islands linked by bridges and canals in the Venetian Lagoon. The island is known globally for its production of glass, and the tradition of glassmaking is still alive there today. A short waterbus ride way from Venice, Murano is best experienced with a visit to one of its traditional blown glass factories, some of which give open demonstrations to tourists.

Praised for their unique craftsmanship, Murano artisans create a variety of interesting handmade glass pieces including figurines, specialty dinnerware, unique vases, and stunning chandeliers. If you are lucky enough to visit Murano even for a little, it is suggested you visit one of the factories that offer tourists a behind-the-scenes look into the world of glassmaking.

The process of creating glass art involves several steps includes heating up sand until it becomes liquid glass, then working on design with various tools. The glass is softened in a furnace or by candlelight, then molded in intervals to create various shapes and forms. Simple tongs, pliers, and clippers, are what artisans use to produce some remarkably ornate pieces. Copper, gold, and other material is used to obtain the bold colors and shades that Murano glass is famous for.

One popular technique in Murano glass creation is the Murrine technique. Colored liquid glass is layered in various shapes, stretched into long canes, and sliced. Each piece then reveals a design. Also very popular in Europe and around the world are intricate Murano beads, influenced by original Venetian craftsmanship.

Having enjoyed a monopoly on quality glassmaking, Murano’s artisans still use century-old techniques on their creations today. Because the objects are handmade, they are each unique in their own fashion, ranging from simple pieces to extremely intricate designs, and that is why Murano glass is considered original and high quality. Pieces signed by various world-renowned glassmakers can be quite expensive. Original Murano wine glass sets can go for thousands of euros, for example, while some chandeliers can go for tens of thousands. And though it is still widely popular due to reputation, the Murano glass industry today faces stiff competition from Asian manufacturers that have flooded the market with cheaper, yet similar products.

The history of glassmaking, as well as glass artifacts created from Egyptian times to modern days can be further examined at Murano island’s glass museum, or Museo del Vetro. For more information on the museum and Murano island, visit museovetro.visitmuve.it.